Sensory Exploration-Into the Closet

When doing activities with your infant/toddler you don’t always have to do complicated activities or activities that require lots of materials. It is so important to provide learning opportunities in their everyday routines and play. This means activities that you do every day can turn into perfect learning opportunities and free play. So the activities you do over and over each day, like diaper changes, meals and bath time become the best opportunities to teach your little one. Each day we look for every opportunity we can to integrate sensory activities and learning into our kids daily routines and play. This is a fun idea I thought of one day after watching my daughter play with the laundry I was folding. I was folding clothes and had the basket sitting on the floor. She was playing on the floor and crawled over and started to pull up on the basket to pull out laundry. She has always loved holding blankets and basically any soft fabric up to her mouth and sucking on it to soothe herself. This replaced thumb sucking after her surgeries. She was pulling a variety of fabrics out of the basket things like our cotton shirts, soft sheets, rough blue jeans, soft fluffy towels. I loved watching her use her hands and mouth to explore these fabrics as she pulled them all out. Needless to say I didn’t get laundry folded very quickly but she was having a ball surrounded by all these fun fabrics. This gave me a great idea for a sensory exploration activity. Here is what we did the following day to extend the laundry texture activity.

I think we all remember playing in closets as little kids. Whether we were playing a game of hide and seek or taking shelter from a storm. Or for those of us who read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe many of us crept into our closets hoping to find a passageway to Narnia or some other mystical land. I can remember exploring my grandparents coat closet looking for treasures. We explored or hid during a game of hide and seek. As we hid we were surrounded by a large variety of textures and smells. My grandparent’s closet always smelled like old coats and leather. We often hid in my parents walk in closet during games of hide and seek. Their closet always held the smell of my dad’s air force flight suits and combat boots. I often played with one of my good friends at her grandma’s house. We often played in her grandma’s huge walk in closet playing with her fancy dresses and costume jewelry. Her closet held the smell of her grandmother’s flowery perfume and the feel of all her soft silk dresses. These are memories that have stuck in my mind based on the textures I felt and the smells that surrounded us. So for our sensory activity today Pip and I headed into the closet for some sensory exploration.

All you need for this activity is your closet and all its contents. Whether you have a walk in closet or a smaller closet like us this activity can be fun for you and baby.

Whether you’re closest is a small basic one like ours

Or you are lucky enough to have a big beautiful closet like this

You have so many textures and clothes to explore. We have baskets full of things like scarves and socks and shelves with sweaters and shirts folded on them. If your baby is very young hold them in your arms and run the fabrics over the baby’s hands, feet and face allowing them feel the different textures. Make happy cooing noises for younger babies for older babies let them get down on the floor and crawl over clothes or feel them as they pull up and crawl. Talk with them about how the fabrics feel such as “oh wow daddy’s sweater is so soft” or “mommy’s dress is very silky!!” Think of all the different textures you have collected in your closet. You have cashmere sweaters, cotton shirts, blue jeans, and super soft and silky dresses. You also have so many bright colors that are visually stimulating. Pip loves to touch and feel all her daddy’s Cardinal red and bright Bears orange clothes. If you are like me you have lots of soft scarves for baby to play with and of course some sparkly shirts and dresses. If you have really soft and fluffy clothes let your baby get down on the floor and roll and crawl on them. Most importantly have fun!! Sing with your baby, talk and laugh. Try tickling your baby with items such as your soft scarves or wrap her in her daddy’s warm flannel shirts. Let your baby walk or crawl under the clothes that are hanging this will give her visual, smell and texture experiences. Babies recognize the smell of their mommy’s and daddy’s almost instantly after birth so baby will know they are exploring a fun world that is very close to mommy and daddy.


A Busy Board

If you have spent any amount of time with a toddler you know that “busy” is a perfect word to describe them. Both of my little ones have been very busy little ones. They LOVE to push buttons on the DVD player or turn the dial on the fan or the oven. They love to flip light switches and open cabinet doors. Between about 12-24 months my little ones wanted to play with everything in the house except their toys. Nothing was off limits the plastic bowels and measuring cups under the sink, pots and pans, you get the idea. So when my mom showed me this I knew it would be the perfect board to keep my little ones busy. It was a hit with both my kids and my nephew. 

This is the finished board, no handy husband did not make this one. My handy dad actually put this together at the encouragement of my mom. She saw it on Pinterest and wanted one for her house. 

My mom and dad went to Lowes and bought all kind of fun items they thought the kids would enjoy exploring and playing with. You wouldn’t have to buy them new. Look around your house and see what old items you can find laying around in drawers and cabinets or hiding in the garage.

Here are the kids investigating the board. To make it more appealing my dad painting it bright contrasting colors. 

Pip spent a long time investigating and playing with the various items. She was a big fan!! 

Dad put a few different types of locks on the board and a light switch. 

He also put a light and a door bell to add visual and auditory stimulation. 

The Perfect Sandbox

The developmental benefits of a sandbox are plentiful!! As with many activities your child will be using their senses to explore the sand. Children use their sense of touch to explore the sand as they play. You can give them multiple texture opportunities by adding a little water to the sand. This will not only help them to mold the sand but will also give them a different texture feel. When children get in a sandbox and play they are exploring the sand with their hands and their feet which is a great way for children to explore their world.

Children are also developing fine and gross motor skills as they play. Using a palmer and a pincer grasp as they manipulate the different toys and tools in the sandbox. You as the adult can help promote language with your child as they play. Talk about what they are doing and provide descriptions and texture words.

As they get older you can label colors, talk about concepts such as empty and full, lots of counting activities can be done. You can also work on shapes and letters. The sandbox is a great place to begin some of these pre-academic skills.

The sandbox is a wonderful place for a child to develop their social skills. Invite other children over for a play date or get older siblings involved. This will give your child a chance to interact socially with others and to also work on skills such as turn taking and sharing.

I have been wanting to add a sandbox to our backyard. Even for a child as young as ours she can still benefit from the many opportunities the sandbox can provide. She can practice hand eye coordination, pouring, scooping, and sitting on uneven surfaces and of course sensory integration. So I set out to find the perfect sandbox and was not happy with the selection I found. I looked at the traditional plastic turtle and crab. These were good options because they had a cover which is a must in the country. I have read all the scary articles about the nasty bacteria raccoons like to leave behind them in sand and our neighbors all have cats. We also have a little three legged dog that loves to find cool dirt and sand to lay in on hot summer days. This made a cover a must for our sandbox!! So I started looking online and found the perfect sandbox!! Unfortunately it was in the UK and the company would only ship within the UK. This is completely understandable consider the weight of a sandbox. So I printed the picture and took it to my on staff handyman and asked if he could make it. All it took was me asking nicely and of course a smile from his favorite daughter to get an instant yes. I think the challenge of building something new also helped. So here is our Sunday afternoon project, it turned out perfect!!

We started with a trip to our local Lowes to stock up on supplies. I have to give a shout out to Lowes for their support of our military families. We have lots of stores to choose from in our area but we always choose Lowes because they give military families a 10% discount. I know it’s not a lot but I think the fact that they support our troops is a big deal!!!

She is definitely her daddy’s girl, we let her investigate and explore the hinges that we were picking out. She takes after her mamma and picked silver, she might have had a little help.

We took our supplies and headed home. This is our stack of wood we also picked up lots and lots of sand. We bought play sand in case the kiddos playing in the sandbox decide to sample the sand.

Next we measured and cut the pieces to the length we wanted.

Built a frame

We put plastic under our sandbox to keep the grass from coming up. I poked holes in the plastic to allow for draining.

Next we put on the sides

And attached the hinges

We then tried out the sandbox without sand for fun. She loved the feel of the plastic and all the noises it made.

This is the first finished bench

We repeated the same steps for the second side. After the second side was complete we added the sand. Here are the girls trying it out.

This is what it looks like when it is closed

We added rope to the sides to make handles for easier opening and closing

Part of the reason I love this sandbox is because I like to be able to play in the sand but don’t really want to sit in the sand. Having my feet in the cool sand and still being able to paly is a great compromise. Watch for upcoming sand activities as we get hours of enjoyment from our new sandbox.